A Brief Description of Body Psychotherapy

Body psychotherapy helps people deal with their concerns not only through talking, but also by helping people become deeply aware of their bodily sensations as well as their emotions, images and behavior. Clients become more conscious of how they breathe, move, speak, and where they experience feelings in their bodies. People seek body psychotherapy for the same reasons they seek talking or any form of psychotherapy (e.g., nxiety, depression, relationship problems, sexual difficulties), but also for physical problems (e.g., headaches, lower back pain).

All experiences, as well as distortions and denials of reality and other defensive maneuvers, are reflected not only in peoples’ thoughts and feelings but also in the way they move, how they breathe and how the structure of their bodies has evolved over the years. To say that a person has his or her “feet on the ground,” “leads with the chin,” “has a stiff upper lip,” or “their head in the clouds,” are not mere figures of speech, but literal observations of the way our bodies express ourselves. How a person says something may be as important as what he or she says. Underlying this approach is the assumption that we are embodied beings and that there is a unity between the psychological and bodily aspects of being.

There are as many different approaches within Body Psychotherapy as there are within traditional psychotherapies. A wide variety of techniques may be used. These may include meditative techniques to help clients get in touch with their bodily sensations, emotionally expressive techniques (e.g. kicking, making sounds, reaching, moving away or towards another person, eye movements), responding to certain questions, movements to help clients become more aware of their bodies, ways to release and deepen breathing, touch where appropriate and agreed upon, and observations to help clients become more aware of what they are feeling and where in the body. Clients may work lying down, sitting or standing. These methods are used within the overriding importance of the relationship between the client and the therapist.

Body Psychotherapy evolved primarily from the work of Wilhelm Reich, originally a psychoanalyst and student of Freud. Reich later developed character analysis, which correlates certain psychological and physical patterns. Existential, humanistic and gestalt psychology, along with dance and movement therapy, family therapy, systems theory, biology, and Far Eastern philosophy, have also contributed to various body psychotherapy approaches. All take into account when problems began and how they affect a person’s development over the years. All help the client to regain the healthy self-regulating function that has been disturbed.